Thursday, July 28, 2011

Day Off Pizza

Day Off Pizza
Serves: 3-4
OBJ: TCW be able to take a day off of cooking by using the leftover sauce she made earlier this week on a pizza

Leftover sauce from “"Ricotta on Top Rigatoni"  recipe (or 2 C of your own or favorite marinara)
1 pre-made pizza dough, I recommend House of Pasta brand as I have had the best luck with them
1 C part-skim low moisture mozzarella cheese
All purpose flour
10-15 fresh basil leaves, torn

                FYI- If you are using a frozen pizza dough or even one that is from the refrigerated section of the store, to me, it is so important to let the dough rise for at least 2 hours at room temperature. Drizzle and spread 2 tsp olive oil all over a large bowl, place dough inside, roll around to coat in oil and cover with plastic wrap. The dough should double in size after about 2 hours. 

1. Place pizza stone in the oven; preheat to 450 degrees for at least 30 minutes
2. On a floured surface, roll out dough to about 13 inches by 13 inches (or the best you can do!)
3. Take pizza stone out of oven and place on top of oven or on a cutting board
4. Working semi-quickly, transfer dough to stone. Spoon and spread sauce all over dough, leaving the desired amount of space around edges for crust
5. Spread mozz all over, place stone with pizza on top back in oven
6. Cook for about 10-15 minutes or until crust is golden brown and cheese is bubbly
7. Take entire stone with pizza on top out of oven and place on a cutting board
8. Sprinkle basil on top and let sit for a minute before slicing and serving!

*** As I believe I have mentioned before, I serve my pizza directly from the stone at the table. You must be careful as it is quite hot but it makes every slice crunchy and able to maintain its temperature. I actually think the second slice is better than the first when using this method! You can of course transfer the pizza to a platter or cutting board after its done cooking but that makes for an eventual cold and limp slice. Just saying;) ***

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ricotta on Top Rigatoni

Ricotta on Top Rigatoni
Serves: 4-6

OBJ: TCW be able to sneak chicken sausage into her husband’s dinner

½ lb rigatoni pasta or any tube-shaped small-medium sized pasta
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes in thick puree
1 28 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes in thick puree
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
½ medium onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
½ C dry red wine
10-15 fresh basil leaves, torn
1 12-ounce package Johnsonville Chicken Sausage: 3 Cheese Italian style, sliced into about ¼ in. rounds
¼ C extra virgin olive oil
1 C whole milk ricotta cheese
S & P, salt and pepper

1. Boil a large pot of water for pasta and make according to package directions
2. Meanwhile, in a large and deep sauté pan or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat
3. Add chicken sausage, stir frequently, and allow to brown, about 10-15 minutes
4. Remove sausage from pan, place aside. Spoon out about 1 TBS oil from drippings and discard
5. Add onions, garlic, parsley, red pepper flakes and a generous pinch of S & P to pan, lower heat to medium-low. Allow vegetables to soften and cook, stir frequently to scrape up “bits” from sausage, about 10 minutes
6. Add wine, turn up the flame and bring to boil, and then reduce heat to simmer and let wine reduce, again scraping up “bits”, about 5 minutes total
7. Add both cans of tomatoes and sausage back to pan, another pinch S & P, turn up flame and bring to boil
8. Cover pan and reduce heat to low and let simmer for 15-20 minutes
9. Turn off flame, stir in fresh basil
10. Add pasta to sauté pan and mix well
11. After plating each portion, spoon about ¼ C dollop of ricotta on top of each serving, enjoy!

****This makes a considerable amount of sauce, in the next few days you will see I used that for pizza, however you can freeze it or cut the recipe in ½.***

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Stacked Chicken

Stacked Chicken
Serves: 4
OBJ: TCW be able to take a shortcut and layer her ingredients rather than stuff them

4 thin cut chicken breast cutlets or 2 large cutlets sliced in half
6 slices prosciutto
1 small –medium sized eggplant, sliced into ¼ in. rounds
2 tomatoes, sliced into ¼ in. rounds
½ lb fresh mozzarella, sliced thin or 1 ½ C shredded mozz
¼ C Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½ C Honey Balsamic dressing (I recommend Ken’s Reserve, but use what you prefer)
S & P, salt and pepper

1. In a large sealable bag, place chicken cutlets and dressing inside, seal bag, squish around and place in refrigerator to marinate for at least 2 hours
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
3.  Place chicken pieces on a medium sized rimmed baking sheet, sprinkle with a pinch S & P
4. On another medium sized baking sheet, rub 2 TBS olive oil all over, place eggplant slices on sheet. Using a brush, brush an additional 2 TBS olive oil on top of eggplant slices and sprinkle each eggplant piece with S & P
5. Roast chicken and eggplant for 20 minutes
6. Remove chicken and eggplant from oven and leave on baking sheets
7. On top of each chicken piece, layer 1 ½ pieces of prosciutto, 1 ½ slices of eggplant, 1 ½ slices of tomato, and ¼ C or 2 slices of fresh mozz (in that order and layered so that chicken piece is covered almost completely)
8. Place “chicken stacks” back in oven for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and chicken is cooked through (meat is completely white and juices with run clear)

 *** I served this with roasted sweet potatoes/yams. Since I had my oven on, it was a one spot dinner. I cut about 3 large sweet potatoes into rounds, spread them on a baking sheet, tossed them with about 3 TBS olive oil, S & P and roasted them for about 15-20 minutes. ***

*** Also to note, this meal could easily be grilled. The chicken and eggplant could be cooked on grill first just like the oven, and then you can layer the ingredients on the baking sheet as explained above. (Grill times may differ though depending on flame, I would say grilling chicken and eggplant on open medium flame will take about 15 minutes, flipping ½ way through time) Place baking sheet on the grill or if you’re brave enough carefully place each stack on grill and cover. Keep flame on medium and allow chicken to cook through (meat white and juices run clear), about 10-12 minutes. The sweet potatoes could be grilled too as long as you toss in olive oil, S & P first! ***

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Fried Dill Pickles

Fried Dill Pickles
                                                                 Serves: 6-8                  

OBJ: TCW be able to use her deep fryer more than once during one day by frying chicken and theseJ


Peanut oil, for frying
1 cup milk
1 egg
Pinch cayenne
Splash pickle juice
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons finely chopped dill
1 jar whole dill pickles, sliced into spears

1. Preheat your deep-fryer to 375 degrees F
2. Into an 8 by 8-inch casserole dish, beat together milk, egg, cayenne, and a splash of the pickle juice
3. Combine the cornmeal, flour, paprika, salt, pepper, and dill into another baking dish
4. Thoroughly dry the pickles with paper towels
5. Dredge the pickles first through the wet, then the dry ingredients
6. Gently place pickles into the deep-fryer in batches and fry until golden brown, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes
7. Remove to a paper towel lined sheet tray and immediately season with salt
8. Serve alongside Ranch dressing

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Grilled Pound Cake

Grilled Pound Cake with Marinated Fruit
Serves: 6-8

OBJ: TCW be able to create a crowd pleasing summery dessert that is quick and easy so that she can spend more time by the poolJ

1 store-bought pound cake, cut into 1 in. slices
3 TBS unsalted butter, melted
½ pint fresh strawberries, cleaned and sliced
½ pint fresh blueberries, cleaned
2 C fresh pineapple, cut into large chunks
2 TBS almond liqueur (such as Amaretto) OR 2 tsp almond extract for a non-alcohol version
2 TBS sugar
1 pint vanilla ice cream (optional)

1. At least 2 hours ahead, in a large bowl, mix fruit, almond liqueur and sugar
2. Cover and place in refrigerator for later use
3. Lay out the desired amount of pound cake you need (I slice per person)
4. Using a pastry brush, brush each side of cake with melted butter (melt more if needed, about 1 tsp per side)
5. Heat grill to medium-high
6. Place cake slices on grill and let grill for about 5 minutes on each side or until they each get “grill marks”
7. Carefully flip and let other side grill for 5 minutes or until that side gets “grill marks”
8. Place each slice on a dessert plate, spoon about ¼ - ½ C of marinated fruit on top of each slice, then place 1 scoop of ice cream either on top or to the side
9. Enjoy!  

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Mac & Cheese ala Ina

Macaroni & Cheese ala Ina
Serves: 6-8
** The changes I made were very minimal; they are the notes in (parenthesis, bold and italic).
OBJ:  TCW be able to make “real” mac & cheese

Kosher salt
Vegetable oil
1 pound elbow macaroni or cavatappi (I used elbow)
1 quart milk (I used whole milk)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
12 ounces Gruyere, grated (4 cups)
8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 pound fresh tomatoes (4 small) (I used 1 can whole plum tomatoes drained and torn because I didn’t have fresh)
1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs (5 slices, crusts removed) (I used same amount of Italian style bread crumbs)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.
3. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it.
4. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large (4-quart) pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk.
5. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth.
6. Take the pot off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well.
7. Pour into a 3-quart baking dish.
8. Slice the tomatoes and arrange on top. (Here is where I tore up my whole plum tomatoes from the can and arranged them on top)
9.  Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine them with the fresh bread crumbs (or combine butter with the premade breadcrumbs like I used), and sprinkle on the top.
10. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Indoor Kabobs

Indoor Kebabs
Serves: 4-6

OBJ: TCW be able to skewer up some summer ingredients that will survive her indoor grill

1 lb turkey breast cutlets
1 ½ red bell pepper, cut into 2-3 inch chunks
1 ½ yellow bell pepper, cut into 2-3 inch chunks
1 large Vidalia onion, cut into 2-3 inch chunks
1 C Kraft Light Sicilian Roasted Garlic salad dressing
S & P – salt and pepper

1. Cut the cutlets into about 2 inch cubes and place in sealable baggie with dressing, seal bag,  place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours to marinate
2.  Preheat grill pan or indoor grill on high heat
3. On each skewer, place about 3 pieces of turkey, 2 pieces of red pepper, 2 pieces of yellow pepper and 3 pieces of onion
4. Grill the kabobs for about 7-10 minutes on each side, making sure that the turkey is getting browned and cooked through- meat is totally white all the way through and juices run clear  (total cooking time is about 25-30 minutes)

**** This recipe can easily be added to with whatever vegetables you have on hand. Zucchini, eggplant, carrots, and mushrooms are all great additions to grilled kabobs. This recipe also made A LOT of kebabs for just my husband and me so I took the leftovers and made quesadillas by chopping up the de-skewered kabobs and tossing with sharp cheddar cheese. I spread that mixture on 1 half of about 3 tortillas, folded them over and seared each side. It was a true “double duty dinner”!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Moonstruck Restaurant & Cocktail Lounge

Asbury Park, NJ

Final Grade: A
                The thought of driving south on a Friday evening in the summer would normally be an undesirable task for my husband and I. But the thought of catching up with friends and trying a new restaurant quickly tamed the negative notion of battling “shore traffic.” Thankful we were once we entered Moonstruck Restaurant & Cocktail Lounge located in Asbury Park. The tri-level locale located on Lake Drive was both beautiful and upbeat. The sounds of live jazz immediately soothe patrons as they either order a beverage at the bar or sit on the oversized porch while awaiting a table.
                As a lover of almost every carbohydrate, I looked forward to what type this restaurant would offer as we decided what to order. To my liking, as well as the others, the sourdough crusty baguette was fresh and accompanied with unsalted butter. For starters we split the lamb quesadillas ($12) and the Asian fried calamari, the calamari being a special that evening. Both were served simultaneously, sadly this can be a challenge for some eateries. The lamb was generously placed within the tortillas which allowed for its tenderness and flavor to shine. The tzatziki sauce was cooling and simple hence allowing the lamb to be the star. The calamari was lightly coated and quite tender. The Asian sauce was served on the side rather than being tossed among the ringlets and had an interesting flare of peanut taste. 
                For entrees, we ordered the pan-seared scallops ($28), fettuccine grilled chicken ($19), Asian grilled shrimp ($29), and the New York Strip ($31). The four over-sized scallops were succulent and seared nicely. The risotto underneath was creamy and well-seasoned. Grilled chicken over fettuccine was adequately tossed with a pesto cream sauce and topped with fresh chopped tomato. Served over a bed of brown rice, the grilled shrimp were well-doused in their spicy sesame-ginger sauce. The sauce brought a welcoming level of heat that both showcased the sauce and delicate nature of the shrimp. Paired with a barbeque “sexy sauce”, the NY Strip was cooked perfectly to the desired temperature. The sauce, which was described by our waiter as “spicy”, was, as described, spicy. It was good; however the name of the sauce was more memorable.
                Our dessert choices were explained to us via our waiter who seemed to know both the venue and menu well. We settled on the mango bread pudding and the banana cheesecake. Both were seasonal and enjoyable.
                Overall, this was a pleasant and appetizing evening. Our meals were executed almost flawlessly, our service was admirable, and the ambiance was noteworthy. Traffic being the one drawback of the night is one I will endure anytime for this dining destination. Moonstruck Restaurant & Cocktail Lounge is located at 517 Lake Avenue, Asbury Park, NJ.
Total score 21/25
Final Grade: A

A: 21-25    B: 16-20    C: 11-15   D: 6-10    F: 0-5
Restaurant Rubric

Food Taste
Bland, boring, overcooked, underdone
Very little flavor, not much aroma
Flavors apparent, basic ability to please palates
Flavor worth discussing, chef’s use of ingredients impressive
Great flavor, taste lingers and leaves diner wanting more
Restaurant service
Inattentive staff, no regard for wait time
Staff average in helpfulness, timing alright, either more/less needed
Staff knowledgeable and attentive to needs without asking, timing very well executed
Remarkable and noteworthy, service so good you forget it is ever an issue elsewhere
Food Presentation
Cover it up please
Sloppy and the eater can tell little thought went into it
Descent presentation: looks alright, not worth a picture but enough to make you hungry
Admirable, it is apparent the chef plated with a consideration for presentation
Presentational talents are here. Looks beautiful and too good to dig in
Prices match quality
Prices are too high for quality
Prices are still too high but not outrageously
Some items are priced accordingly but not all
Most items are priced accordingly
All items are matched accordingly
Would I go back?
Not a chance ever
Looking forward to it
What time should I arrive?!?